Remembering Jackie Robinson
Arts & Humanities
Recognize the anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseballs color barrier.
Before reading, invite students to create a list of famous African Americans. Write down the names as students introduce them. Was the name Jackie Robinson on the list? If not, add the name Jackie Robinson to the list and ask students what they know about him.
Next, introduce these words that appear in the News Word Box on the students printable page: major league, general manager, anniversary, separate(adj.), allowed, threat, and courage. Discuss the meanings of any of those words that might be unfamiliar. Then ask students to use one of those words to complete each of these sentences:
Rons sister had an interview with the _____ of the store. (general manager)
Rosa Parks showed great _____ by not getting up from her seat in the bus. (courage)
Sherrys grandparents just celebrated their 50th wedding _____. (anniversary)
When the game was over, all the children went their _____ ways. (separate)
My brother dreams of playing _____ baseball. (major league)
The government responded to the _____ from a terrorist group. (threat)
Oscar is not _____ to watch TV until all his homework is done. (allowed)
Read the News
Click for a printable version of this weeks news story Remembering Jackie Robinson.
You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:
Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.
Students might first read the news story to themselves; then you might call on individual students to read sections of the news aloud for the class.
Photocopy the news story onto a transparency and project it onto a screen. (Or use your classroom computer's projector to project the story.) Read the story aloud as a class, or ask students to take turns reading it.
Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write notes in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.
More Facts to Share
You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this weeks news story.
Jackie Robinson was born in Cairo, Georgia, on January 31, 1919. He was the youngest of five children. The next year, after his father abandoned the family, Jackies mother moved him and his siblings to Pasadena, California. The family was poor, and Jackie even joined a gang at one point in his life. With the help of a family friend and involvement in sports, though, Jackie turned around his life.
Historians say that World War II helped pave the way for blacks to play in the major leagues. Blacks had played an integral part in Americas victory in the war.
Sports historians say that some baseball team owners saw the untapped talent in the Negro Leagues as the key to winning a pennant. The team that took the courageous step of signing talented black players might have the best shot at beating the Yankees, who had been winning the pennant year after year.
As the story goes, Dodgers owner Branch Rickey called Jackie Robinson into his office to talk about joining the team. At that meeting, Rickey purposely said many nasty things to Robinson -- the kinds of things Robinson would hear if he chose to be the first black player in the league. Rickey told Robinson that he would have to put up with that kind of talk. To that, Robinson reportedly asked, "Well, Mr. Rickey, do you want a player who doesn't have the guts to fight back?" Branch Rickey replied, "Jackie, how about a ballplayer with the guts not to fight back?" Indeed, as history would report, having the courage not to fight back would be one of the true measures of Robinsons courage and greatness.
Before he joined the Dodgers major league team, Jackie Robinson had played a season on their minor league team in Montreal. He led that league in batting average and fielding.
That first year in Brooklyn was a rough one for Jackie. Fans and opposing players would taunt and harass him. Even some of his own teammates threatened to sit out rather than play alongside him. Wisely, Dodger management took a strong stand. They informed players who sat out that they would need to find new jobs.
In one game early in the season, Philadelphia Phillies players and their manager shouted insults at Robinson. Those games against the Phillies did more to unite the Dodger players than anything else, Rickey would later recall.
Pee Wee Reese, the white shortstop who played alongside Robinson, became one his best friends. During one early-season game in 1947, when Robinson was being heckled by fans in Cincinnati, Reese went over and put his arm around Robinson. That quiet gesture made a huge statement to the fans in the stands, and to the world.
Hank Greenberg, a player on the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1947, made it a point to give Jackie a public welcome to the big leagues. Greenberg, a Jewish player, recalled being badly treated in his early days because of his religion; fans would often shout anti-Semitic remarks at him.
In Robinsons first year in the majors, he played 151 games, hit .297, and led the league in stolen bases. At the end of the season, he was named Rookie of the Year. Two years later he would earn the title of Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the National League.
As Robinsons career progressed, he became a fan favorite. More important, his presence stood as a symbol of hope to millions of African Americans. He played his entire career, which spanned 10 years, with the Dodgers. He played first base during his first season, but for most of his Dodger career he was their second baseman. During Robinsons career, the Dodgers went to the World Series six times; they beat the Yankees to win the 1955 World Series.
Robinson was chosen to play on six consecutive National League All-Star teams. In 1962, he became the first black player inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
At the end of the 1956 season, the Dodgers chose to sell Robinson's contract to the New York Giants. Instead of playing for the Giants, Robinson decided to retire. He was 37 years old.
Robinson made his final public appearance at a World Series game on October 14, 1972. By that time, he was in failing health. He suffered from diabetes and heart problems, and he was virtually blind. He died 10 days later at age 53.
Robinson had hoped to live to see the day when a black man would manage a major-league baseball team. Two years after his death, the Cleveland Indians hired the first black manager. At the press conference that announced the appointment of Frank Robinson (no relation to Jackie) as the manager, Frank Robinson made a special point of saying how much he wished Jackie Robinson had lived to see the moment.
Today, Jackie Robinsons wife, Rachel, heads the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which provides scholarships to help minority students attend college. Since the Foundations inception, more than 1,100 students have received scholarships.
After reading the News for Kids article, revisit the Anticipation Guide at the top of this lesson. Ask students if Jackie Robinsons name belongs on the list of great African Americans. Challenge students to support their answer with solid reasons. If you teach older students, you might talk about and create a list of the characteristics that the individuals on the list possess. What are the most common characteristics among the African-American heroes on the list?
Recalling Detail For what major-league baseball team did Jackie Robinson play? (the Brooklyn Dodgers)
In what year did he first play for the Brooklyn Dodgers? (1947)
Who was the general manager of the Dodgers in 1947? (Branch Rickey)
What number was on the uniform that Jackie Robinson wore? (42)
Think About the News
Discuss, or have students write their responses, to the Think About the News question that appears on the students news page.
Critical thinking. Pose one or more of the following questions:
Ask: Why, do you think, did Branch Rickey choose Jackie Robinson above all the other black players he could have chosen? Accept students reasoned responses.
Ask students to find the word strong in this weeks News for Kids article. Ask a student to read aloud the sentence in which the word appears. ("More important, he knew the person would have to be strong because many people did not think African-American and white players should play on the same team.") Ask: In that sentence, what does the word strong mean? Accept reasoned responses. It doesnt mean strong in a physical sense as much as it means strong in a mental sense. Rickey was looking for a player who would be strong enough to withstand the taunts and insults that might come his way.
Jackie Robinson once said, A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives. Ask students what they think Jackie meant by that. Accept reasoned responses. At a recent Jackie Robinson Foundation event, Rachel Robinson, Jackies widow, repeated that quote as she presented Foundation scholarships. To the recipients, she added, "That's what I hope young people like you will do. You'll look around you and say, How can I help? What can I do for others?"
Technology. Share some online resources about Jackie Robinson. The Los Angeles Dodgers (the modern-day Brooklyn Dodgers) Web site offers some excellent audio and video clips on its Jackie Robinson Timeline page.
Math. Use Jackie Robinsons career stats for this activity. Provide your middle or high-school students with the number of At Bats (AB) and hits (H) Robinson had each season. Challenge them to figure his average (AVG).
History. Provide students, or groups of students, with a list of Black Famous Baseball Firsts. Challenge them to study the list. Then divide the class into teams and ask questions that call on students to recall facts about famous firsts in black baseball history. The following questions will serve as examples:
Note: You will find in the above resource several references to black major-league players prior to Jackie Robinson. Robinson is widely considered to be the first black player in modern baseball history.
Who was the first black to play in a minor leaguer game? (Jackie Robinson)
With which minor league team did Robinson play? (the Montreal Royals)
Describe Robinsons first hit in the major leagues. (It was a bunt that he beat out.)
Jackie Robinson is noted for his speed. He stole many bases during his career. How many times did Robinson steal home during his career? (19 times)
Jackie Robinson was the first black player in the National League. Who was the first black player in the American League? (Larry Doby)
Who was the first black pitcher to play in a major league game? (Dan Bankhead)
Who was Emmett Ashford? (He was the first black umpire in organized baseball; later he would become the first black umpire in the major leagues.)
Who was the first black pitcher to win the Rookie of the Year award? (Don Newcomb)
Why is pitcher Sam Jones most famous? (He was the first black pitcher to throw a no-hitter.)
Who was the first black player to win back-to-back Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards? (Ernie Banks)
Why is Buck ONeill famous in black baseball history? (He became the first black coach on a major-league team [the Chicago Cubs])
Who was the first black player to be chosen captain of his team? (Willie Mays, of the San Francisco Giants)
Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News questions on the news story page or in the Comprehension Check section.
Lesson Plan Source
LANGUAGE ARTS: English
GRADES K - 12
NL-ENG.K-12.2Reading for Understanding
NL-ENG.K-12.8Developing Research Skills
NL-ENG.K-12.12Applying Language Skills
MATHEMATICS: Number and Operations
GRADES 6 - 8
NM-NUM.6-8.1 Understand Numbers, Ways of Representing Numbers, Relationships Among Numbers, and Number Systems
NM-NUM.6-8.2 Understand Meanings of Operations and How They Relate to One Another
NM-NUM.6-8.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates
GRADES 9 - 12
NM-NUM.9-12.1 Understand Numbers, Ways of Representing Numbers, Relationships Among Numbers, and Number Systems
NM-NUM.9-12.2 Understand Meanings of Operations and How They Relate to One Another
NM-NUM.9-12.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates
SOCIAL SCIENCES: Civics
GRADES K - 4
NSS-C.K-4.2 Values and Principles of Democracy
NSS-C.K-4.5 Roles of the Citizen
GRADES 5 - 8
NSS-C.5-8.3 Principles of Democracy
NSS-C.5-8.5 Roles of the Citizen
GRADES 9 - 12
NSS-C.9-12.3 Principles of Democracy
NSS-C.9-12.5 Roles of the Citizen
SOCIAL SCIENCES: U.S. History
GRADES K - 4
NSS-USH.K-4.3 The History of the United States: Democratic Principles and Values and the People from Many Cultures Who Contributed to Its Cultural, Economic, and Political Heritage
GRADES 5 - 12
NSS-USH.5-12.9 Era 9: Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s)
See recent news stories in Education Worlds News Story of the Week Archive.
Article by Ellen Delisio and Gary Hopkins
Copyright © 2007 Education World